St. Finbar's R.C. located in Four Roads, Diego Martin has run Alpha for the past eight years. Headed by a strong team of Team Leaders and Alpha Co-ordinators, St. Finbar's continues to guide parishioners in their faith and to answer the call to evangelization. St. Finbar's latest Alpha ran from March 10th to June 9th, 2014 and saw 19 persons complete it. We asked them to share some insights on how Alpha has shaped St. Finbar's R.C. and their many parishioners.
Q. How did you first hear about Alpha? How many Alphas have since been run?
A. Our Parish was introduced to Alpha by the Evangelization Commission as part of its mandate to carry out the Church's Synod objectives for Evangelization. Fourteen (14) courses were run from September 2007 to the present.
Q. In what ways did parishioners benefit from doing Alpha?
A. Brief extracts from the testimonies of a few of our Alpha participants provide their views as follows:
- Caroline..."The best day for me was the Day-Away. The presence and the power were electric and the healing awesome".
- Christine..."I have learnt to trust God more and by calling on the Holy Spirit daily and asking for guidance and by being still, and allowing God to talk to you in that silence. The answer does come but you must ask and you must trust."
- Dafina..."I feel righteous, good and rejuvenated. This was an amazing experience and it will be truly missed. I hope we are able to keep in contact with each other. I would also like to help in any of the upcoming courses."
- Derek..."I was lucky to have had a good R.C. education prior to Alpha, but still learned things I never knew, like the facts proving God's existence and most profound was my interaction with the Holy Spirit".
- Giselle..."It has made me more in tune with reading the Bible and being able to find readings that convey the message in different ways and words".
- Leian..."I was led to Alpha to continue my journey seeking and knowing Him more. I was pleasantly surprised! The people are delightful, great vibes. Nicky Gumbel! Simply brilliant man! Fresh, funny, eloquent, easy... Did I say funny :)"
- Michelle..." I felt I needed more in life, more to do than Church on a Sunday. This has shown me that I can learn more if I am in the right environment. I have started reading the Bible, and hope to understand more through this."
Participants in Alpha have gone on to serve in other areas of the Church, in some instances eventually to lead Ministries of the Parish. Parishioners who would not have had the opportunity to meet on a personal level have formed friendships with each other.
Q. Have you experienced a return of parishioners to Church? Tell us about it?
A. Many participants have experienced a renewed commitment to attend Mass and participate in Church life. We advise parishioners to continue on their path by participating in Catholicism 201 and Dogmatic Theology.
Q. What advice would you give to other Parishes to aid their decision to run Alpha?
- Have an effective and dedicated Team Leader along with committed Team members,
- Nurture excellent Team spirit,
- Stick to the Alpha recipe. Adhere to the guidelines for leading an Alpha evening, including the role of leaders and helpers in small group discussions. Review your processes after each session to see if you went off track and why and then go back to the recipe,
- Emphasize training and re-training of the team in the conduct of the Alpha course elements,
- Focus on the Team's spiritual growth and group relationship as this will enable better service to others,
- Place very strong emphasis on prayer,
- Be sensitive and caring in the choice of menus for the Alpha sharing,
- Use creative approaches to marketing the course to the targeted participants,
- Encourage a few persons from the Parish planning to develop their Alpha programme to sit in at St. Finbar's next Alpha.
Q. How have you followed up with the Alpha participants and what kind of responses are you getting?
A. Informal group get-togethers have been held after each Alpha programme to stay in contact. We are mow engaged in planning a reunion in November 2014 of ALL participants of the past 14 Courses. We hope to re-connect at the reunion and are looking forward to the event.
Q. What's next for St Finbar's R.C.? How will you maximize this experience for the benefit of all parishioners?
A. The next St. Finbar's Alpha is carded for September 8 to November 24 2014. We intend to continue to draw in parishioners but also to spread out to members of our community that do not attend Church. More focused and assertive promotion of the Alpha programme will be done in new places and spaces to reach non Church-goers. We intend to provide support to other Parishes in their development of Alpha starting with St. Patrick's in Newtown. Four (4) St. Finbar's participants attended the Youth Alpha Training last Saturday (July 12). The report of this session will be for discussion at a forthcoming meeting on the way forward.
Q. Any final thoughts or comments on the Alpha experience?
A. Alpha continues to be a positive force in the Parish of St. Finbar's.